WASHINGTON, Jan. 13 (UPI) -- The Sierra Club hailed President Barack Obama for steering the nation toward a low-carbon future, though the energy industry warned of the administration's heavy hand.
"Looking back at the last seven years, we can say with confidence that President Obama has taken unprecedented action to fulfill our obligation to tackle the climate crisis while seizing the economic opportunities that present themselves when we do," Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said in a statement.
President Obama has governed the nation's energy sector under an "all of the above" directive, handing mixed support to the oil and gas sector while pushing for stronger support for renewable energy programs.
A federal report last year found emissions of carbon dioxide, a potent greenhouse gas, was steady from 2004 to 2007, declined through 2012, and then started to gradually increase. Emissions from coal-powered plants have declined since 2008, though emissions tied to natural gas have moved up since then.
In his final State of the Union address before leaving office, Obama said the cost of wind power is moving closer to parity with conventional energy resources, while the solar power sector employs more people than the coal industry, while at the same time saving consumers "tens of millions of dollars" each year on energy bills.
"Gas under two bucks a gallon ain't bad, either," he said.
Under the Obama administration, the United States has come to rival Saudi Arabia as a top oil producer. The glut of oil has lead to a steep drop in energy prices, creating a de facto form of stimulus for U.S. consumers.
Last year, the industry scored a victory in the form of an end to a 40-year-old ban on crude oil exports, but suffered a loss with the president's denial of a permit to build the Keystone XL oil pipeline across the Canadian border into the United States.
U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski said in a statement it was wrong to credit the Obama administration with ushering in the shale oil era. Since he took office, she said, he's moved in support of the Iranian energy sector in the form of sanctions relief and blocked offshore energy production.
Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute, said Obama has launched an "onslaught" on the industry in the form of strict federal regulations.